Picturing Reality: An Examination of Nabokov’s Ekphrastic Photographs

Rikki-Nikol Anderson : English

Mentor: Eric Naiman, Comparative Literature

Rikki-Nikol is researching the status of prosaic photographs in Vladimir Nabokov’s fiction, focusing on the problems of verisimilitude that arise when a solipsistic narrator refers to a supposedly objective image. In many of Nabokov’s works, the fictional “reality” is mediated through a highly subjective, unreliable narrator. These narrators employ ekphrasis—the verbal description of a visual object—to insert photographs into their prose. Though photographs require a real subject and suggest an objective reality, Nabokov’s narrators constantly undermine the idea of objectivity. Rikki-Nikol’s research will explore the ways in which photography affects human perception of reality and how the inclusion of ekphrastic photographs affects a reader’s perception of fiction. Over the summer, she will be traveling to New York to examine Nabokov’s personal papers at The Berg Collection.